Susumo Azano | Trickle Down Technology
Homeland security software developer Susumo Azano’s company has transitioned over the years from a cargo vehicle tracking device manufacturer to a provider of wireless security services and software. The irony, Susumo Azano points out, is that most of us are unaware that our wireless devices are, in fact, trackers.
The technological advances that have been made over the past decade, Susumo Azano explains, have trickled down to everyday technology, creating devices that perform more functions than we are aware. For the average citizen, the cell phone now serves the purpose of both tracker and wireless data collection devices, as well as the less important function of phone. It is the perfect tool for a society that has come to depend more and more on surveillance, whether we like it or not.
Governments, Susumo Azano explains, depend on the data that cell phones collect, even if the collection is controversial. However, there is a difference between tapping a phone line, or looking up an individual’s call records, and browsing information that an individual has already chosen to make public. Smart phones constantly emit GPS data, sometimes even when off, letting the wireless provider know where the individual’s phone is at all times.
Many individuals, furthermore, have their location services hooked up to social media sites, effectively advertising their location, interests, activities, and even health to the world at large. The significance of this Panoptic lifestyle, points out Susumo Azano, is that it shows just how far technology has come in terms of monitoring the activity of almost every individual in a society, but does not yet reveal the future of such a society in regards to national security.
For homeland security software experts like Susumo Azano, this kind of technology has made leaps and bounds in expanding national security measures. It is very unlikely that a plot like the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack could happen today, and the speed with which the Boston Marathon bomber was identified earlier this year is another testimony to the usefulness of smart phone technology.
Susumo Azano Discusses the Evolution of GPS Technology
For those individuals not involved in national security efforts, the “tracker” phenomenon has a few less obvious consequences. The average citizen has nothing to hide, but that does not mean that publicly advertising every aspect of his life appeals to him. Basic privacy is a major concern for many individuals, and individuals who may wish to run for any kind of office or achieve any kind of social prominence would be strongly advised to limit what they willingly post on the Internet. What they unwittingly make public, however, are their doctors, shopping interests, reading interests, sexual encounters, friends, enemies, and future whereabouts. All of this data and more can be gathered from basic GPS mapping, and so these individuals not only have to censor what they say they do, but also what they do.
Citizens who have no interest in ever becoming public figures, admittedly, have less to keep them up at night. Students, however, should not relax too quickly. Workout habits, study habits, sleep schedules, extra curricular activities and so much more have been recorded about them since they were infants, if their parents were young enough to participate in social media. Schools and employers have more access than ever to every detail of these young peoples’ lives, as does law enforcement. The mistakes of youth, some worry, might be stuck with these kids the rest of their lives.
Paranoia, while easy to fall into, is not the only reaction to this new, transparent world. Cyber technology has made other advances possible that we have come to depend on for our very lives, from our food to our healthcare. Like most powerful tools, GPS technology is a double-edged sword. The mother who is reunited with a missing child because of GPS location services, or the pet owner whose micro-chipped dog is returned unharmed, are ordinary citizens who have benefited from GPS technology. Anyone who has used a GPS to find a restaurant or destination also profits from the “tracker” phenomenon. National Security risks have been neutralized using GPS services, and dangerous criminals have been similarly apprehended.
The government, it should be noted, did not hand out smart phones to American citizens and demand they keep detailed logs of their every move. Americans did that themselves. People were excited about doing it, constantly seeking new ways to advertise where they were, what they were doing, and with whom. Can people really blame governments and advertisers for taking advantage of their actions? Or do people accept that these are the repercussions of naïveté, and a nation caught up in a love affair with new technology? GPS technology has offered people a concrete example of how commonplace data can be used for either the greater good or an individual ill, and how the trickle down effect of government and military technology can play out in the hands of ordinary citizens.
However, this technology is still very new. Society is capable of adapting to large changes, even the shift to a surveillance society. Discussions about the negative and positive effects of surveillance technology are an important part of processing that change, and deciding courses of action on individual and societal levels. What worries Susumo Azano is how society and its new technologies will evolve to pose further threats to national security.
Susumo Azano is the founder of STDi Security Tracking Devices SA de CV. The company, founded in 1998, develops tracking devices for cargo vehicles, and wireless network solutions for governments across the globe. They have specialized in Homeland Security Solutions since 2005.